Stock cooking on stovetop

Chicken and vegetable stocks

Stocks are a great way of adding flavour to your winter meals. However, if you don’t have the time to boil your own broth, a store-bought stock can look like an appealing alternative. We looked at 19 chicken and 14 vegetable stocks to find out what you get for your money.

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Unfortunately, some stocks just don’t contain much of what’s pictured on the pack.

Continental Stock Pot Chicken has a measly 2.2% and Vegeta Real Chicken Stock is only 1% chicken. Massel’s “chicken style” products don’t have any chook (see our Table).

Nine stocks didn't list their chicken or vege content – Woolworths Chicken Stock's biggest ingredient is “reconstituted chicken stock”. Chicken bones and “chicken pre-mix” are included, but the pack doesn’t tell you the proportion.

The salt factor

We found huge variation in the amount of sodium in stocks. Fourteen of the 17 stock powders named salt as their main ingredient. It’s the sodium in salt that’s bad for your health.

Per cup, the biggest sodium hitters were Campbell’s Real Stock liquids and Continental Stock Pot Chicken.

Don’t take reduced salt options at face value either. For example, Continental Stock Pot Chicken has a “salt reduced” option. While it contains less salt than Continental’s standard offering, cup-for-cup it packs more sodium than most of the stocks we bought.

Make your own

You can whip up a tasty broth in a couple of hours, often from bits and bobs you already have in the kitchen. Trained chef and Consumer NZ staff member Jacinta Allen gives us the skinny on making your own vege stock.

“This is how I do it at my house, but the beauty of a stock is, if you’re making your own, almost anything can go in it,” she says.

Ingredients

  • 4-5L of cold water
  • 3-4 carrots (chopped)
  • 3 onions (chopped)
  • ¼ to ½ head of celery (chopped)
  • 1 tbsp of peppercorns (don’t add salt)
  • A handful of herbs
  • 2-3 cups of chopped vegetables. These can range from what you find in the pantry to food scraps (for example: clean onion and carrot peels, celery leaves and mushroom stalks).

Method

Step 1: Tie the peppercorns and herbs (Jacinta uses parsley stalks, bay leaves and thyme as a base but she recommends experimenting to find flavours you like) in muslin – this makes it easy to remove from the stock when its finished cooking.

Step 2: Put all your ingredients in a large pot on a medium heat.

Step 3: When it starts simmering, turn down so it doesn’t boil. If it gets up to a rolling boil, you’ll get cloudy stock.

Step 4: After an hour, take it off the heat and leave to cool.

Step 5: Remove the herbs.

Step 6: Strain the stock and collect the liquid.

Step 7: Toss or compost the solids you’ve pulled out.

Step 8: Enjoy! Stock can be stored in the fridge for 4 to 5 days. Any longer and you'll need to freeze it (up to 6 months).

Making meat or fish stock

Adding the bones of beef, chicken or fish to your stock changes the balance and gives a different flavour. Use the same process as making vege stock, but adjust the cooking time. If it's chicken or red meat, simmer for 3 to 4 hours. Fish stock just needs 20 minutes' simmering. Make sure to skim off the scum and fat as you go. Jacinta recommends browning meat and fish bones by frying before adding them if you want a darker stock with a richer taste.

Tip: Keep a sealed container of vege scraps such as carrot peel, onion end and parsley stalks in the fridge. Add to it every time you cook and then make a stock from it at the end of the week.

Stocks compared

Stock concentrates

 Price ($ per 250ml)[width=medium]Sodium (mg per 250ml)Chicken/vege content (%)Largest ingredient
CHICKEN
Vegeta Real Chicken Stock (Powder)0.42881 (dried chicken meat extract)Salt
OXO Chicken Stock Cubes Reduced Salt0.214303 (chicken extract) 4 (chicken fat) Wheat
Continental Superb Stock Chicken Powder Salt Reduced0.094703.4Salt
Simon Gault Home Cuisine Chicken Stock Concentrate (LiquidA)0.72630nsChicken
OXO Chicken Stock Cubes0.216352 (chicken extract) and 3.4 (chicken fat)Wheat
Massell Stock Cubes Chicken Style0.187200Salt
Maggi Chicken Stock & Seasoning (Powder)0.178204.5 (chicken fat)Salt
Continental Chicken Stock Powder0.098302.8Salt
Continental Superb Stock Chicken Cubes0.218304Salt
Continental Stock Pot Chicken Salt Reduced (Gel)0.498402.3Concentrated chicken Stock
Massel 7's Chicken Style Stock Cubes0.178840Salt
Continental Stock Pot Chicken (Gel)0.4911902.2Concentrated chicken Stock
VEGETABLE
Vegeta Vegetable Stock (Powder)0.427340 (dehydrated vegetables) Salt
Vegeta Stock Powder Gourmet Stock0.434115.5 (dehydrated vegetables)Salt
OXO Stock Vegetable Cubes Salt Reduced0.2152310Potato starch
Massel Stock Cubes Vegetable0.18704nsSalt
Maggi Vegetable Stock & Seasoning (Powder)0.177206Salt
OXO Stock Vegetable Cubes0.217508Salt
Simon Gault Home Cuisine Vegetable Stock Concentrate (LiquidA)0.72750nsVegetables
Maggi Green Herb Stock & Seasoning (Powder)0.178106.5Salt
Continental Stock Pot Vegetable (Gel)0.4985012Concentrated vegetable stock
Continental Superb Stock Vegetable Cubes0.218605Salt


Liquid stocks

 Price ($ per 250ml)[width=medium]Sodium (mg per 250ml)Chicken/vege content (%)Largest ingredient
CHICKEN
Continental Superb Stock Chicken Salt Reduced0.984850.5Chicken stock
Campbell's Real Stock Chicken Salt Reduced1.35625nsChicken stock
Woolworths Chicken Salt Reduced0.75650nsReconstituted chicken stock
Continental Superb Stock Chicken0.986600.5Chicken stock
Pams Real Stock Chicken0.87797.52 (chicken extract)Water
Woolworths Chicken Stock0.751040nsReconstituted chicken stock
Campbell's Real Stock Chicken1.351118nsChicken stock
VEGETABLE
Continental Superb Stock Vegetable0.986650.5Vegetable stock
Pams Real Stock Vegetable0.8775515Water
Woolworths Stock Vegetable Liquid0.75812nsReconstituted vegetable stock
Campbell's Real Stock Vegetable 1.351353nsVegetable stock

GUIDE TO THE TABLES STOCKS are listed by sodium content (lowest to highest) within each category. TYPEA = liquid concentrate to be diluted. PRICE is the price per 250ml based on the price we paid (prepared according to package instructions). CHICKEN/VEGE CONTENT (%) is from product labels. ns = not stated.


By Robert Kelly
Investigative Writer